Nanoparticles and their Applications 

Nanoparticles are incredibly small, having one dimension that measures 100 nanometers or less, it would take eight hundred 100 nanometer particles side by side to match the width of a human hair. The properties of many conventional materials change when formed from nanoparticles. This is typically because nanoparticles have a greater surface area per weight than larger particles which causes them to be more reactive to some other molecules.

Nanoparticles are used, or being evaluated for use, in many fields. The list below introduces several of the uses under development.

Nanoparticle Applications in Medicine

Researchers at Tel Aviv University are developing a vaccine for melanoma based using polymer nanoparticles to which melanoma related peptides have been attached.

Researchers are reporting results from a clincal study using use of gold-silcia nanoshels heated by near-infrared laser to destroy tumors in prostate cancer patients.

Researchers at MIT are developing nanoparticles designed to pass through the brain barrier and target tumors of a type of brain cancer called glioblastoma, delivering two chemothreapy drugs to the tumor.

The use of polymer coated iron oxide nanoparticles to break up clusters of bacteria, possibly allowing more effective treatment of chronic bacterial infections.

The surface change of protein filled nanoparticles has been shown to affect the ability of the nanoparticle to stimulate immune responses. Researchers are thinking that these nanoparticles may be used in inhalable vaccines.

Researchers at Rice University have demonstrated that cerium oxide nanoparticles act as an antioxidant to remove oxygen free radicals that are present in a patient's bloodstream following a traumatic injury. The nanoparticles absorb the oxygen free radicals and then release the oxygen in a less dangerous state, freeing up the nanoparticle to absorb more free radicals.

Researchers are developing ways to use carbon nanoparticles called nanodiamonds in medical applications. For example nanodiamonds with protein molecules attached can be used to increase bone growth around dental or joint implants.

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Nanoparticle Applications and the Environment

Researchers are using photocatalytic copper tungsten oxide nanoparticles to break down oil into biodegradable compounds. The nanoparticles are in a grid that provides high surface area for the reaction, is activated by sunlight and can work in water, making them useful for cleaning up oil spills.

Researchers are using gold nanoparticles embedded in a porous manganese oxide as a room temperature catalyst to breakdown volatile organic pollutants in air.

Iron nanoparticles are being used to clean up carbon tetrachloride pollution in ground water.

Iron oxide nanoparticles are being used to clean arsenic from water wells.

More about Nanoparticle Applications in the Environment.

Nanoparticle Applications in Energy and Electronics

Researchers have used nanoparticles called nanotetrapods studded with nanoparticles of carbon to develop low cost electrodes for fuel cells. This electrode may be able to replace the expensive platinum needed for fuel cell catalysts.

Researchers at Georgia Tech, the University of Tokyo and Microsoft Research have developed a method to print prototype circuit boards using standard inkjet printers. Silver nanoparticle ink was used to form the conductive lines needed in circuit boards.

Combining gold nanoparticles with organic molecules creates a transistor known as a NOMFET (Nanoparticle Organic Memory Field-Effect Transistor). This transistor is unusual in that it can function  in a way similar to synapses in the nervous system.

A catalyst using platinum-cobalt nanoparticles is being developed for fuel cells that produces twelve times more catalytic activity than pure platinum. In order to achieve this performance, researchers anneal nanoparticles to form them into a crystalline lattice, reducing the spacing between platinum atoms on the surface and increasing their reactivity.

Researchers have demonstrated that sunlight, concentrated on nanoparticles, can produce steam with high energy efficiency. The "solar steam device" is intended to be used in areas of developing countries without electricity for applications such as purifying water or disinfecting dental instruments.

A lead free solder reliable enough for space missions and other high stress environments using copper nanoparticles.

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